Tawuniya Q4 profits rise despite missed forecast

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Tawuniya, Saudi Arabia's leading insurer, posted a 193 percent rise in fourth quarter net profit, but missed its own forecast after floods that the city of Jeddah in December.

Tawuniya made $27.1 million in the three months to end December, up from $9.22 million a year earlier, it said in a statement on the bourse website.

The company's Chief Executive Ali al Subaihin told Reuters in October that he expected earnings in the fourth quarter to at least match the $33.48 million it made in the third quarter of 2009.

Ahmad Alshalan, vice president for sales and marketing, said the company lost $10.13 million due to damage in the floods that hit Jeddah, the kingdom's second most populous city.

Speaking to Reuters, he said: "Damage for construction, warehouses, property and projects was $7.99 million while for vehicles the loss amounted to some 300 vehicles valued at $2.13 million."

About 125 people were killed in the floods which also caused important material damage.

Alshalan added: "The financial damage is very low for insurance firms. We think that about 6,000-7,000 vehicles have been damaged by the floods. This speaks volumes about the low penetration of insurance in the Saudi Arabia."

Saudi Arabia is one of the least insured areas in the world partly due to a belief among some Muslims that buying an insurance policy could indicate a lack of religious faith.

For all of 2009, Tawuniya made a net profit of $78.9 million, or $0.61 per share, up 341 percent from 2008.

The government made health insurance mandatory for non-Saudi private sector employees in 2008.

Tawuniya's profitability began to recover in 2009 after the global financial crisis caused it investment losses of $145.31 million in 2008 and saw its profit fall 87 percent.

Its shares have gained 6.3 percent in 2010, outperforming both the insurance stocks' index and the Saudi stock exchange's benchmark measure. (Reuters)

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